When the Los Angeles Lakers were long-viewed as the favorites to land LeBron James in free agency this summer, nothing was guaranteed. This was especially the case after Paul George decided to remain with the Oklahoma City Thunder as opposed to joining the Lakers.
Many believed that signing George or trading for Kawhi Leonard would guarantee that James would come to Los Angeles. Of course none of that was necessary for James to agree to a deal and he apparently made that clear when he met with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
According to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, James assured Johnson that he was committed long-term and his decision wouldn’t be swayed by any moves the Lakers did or didn’t make:
A source told Shelburne that the Lakers felt a sense of urgency this week to find a co-star to play alongside James, either through free agency with George or through a trade for Leonard. Johnson went to one of James’ houses in Los Angeles late Saturday night and met with him for several hours, sources told Shelburne. However, when Johnson spoke to James and James’ camp at the opening of free agency, James assured the Lakers that this was a long-term play for him and his decision wouldn’t be affected by a single transaction the Lakers could make under time pressure.
This is huge for the Lakers especially when it comes to a potential Leonard trade. The Lakers could’ve been pressured to overpay in Leonard traded if they felt it would have landed the four-time MVP. But James’ commitment allows the Lakers to not panic and only swing a deal if the right one comes along, knowing Leonard — along with others — will be available next summer.
The Lakers have already made a number of moves since signing James as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo have all agreed to one-year deals and there are other meetings scheduled. But regardless of what happens, James made his commitment clear and that allows the Lakers front office to be patient in putting the right team around him.
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